Best known for his views of industrial architecture, Sheeler was also attracted to the clean lines and simple, geometric forms of early American and Shaker buildings. Ephrata Cloister is a former 18th century German religious community in eastern Pennsylvania. Founded in 1732, the mystical order died out around 1800; its buildings are now open as a state historic site. Sheeler, who was also a noted photographer, first photographed Ephrata about 1917 and then used his photographs as the basis for this painting, of the meetinghouse, bakery and women's dormitory, almost 20 years later. Because the artist was renowned as a photographer, the painting was often a target for critics, one of whom said that this work and others "resemble tinted photographs (with) pallid, tint-like color."